Baxter Dance Festival second update


The past weekend saw the 10th annual Baxter Dance Festival taking its final bow on Saturday, delivering several exciting productions in the last few days of the programme.

Choreographed by the Jazzart Dance Theatre’s Mziyanda Mancam, Melting Truth is another example of why he is considered one of the country’s most formidable dance-makers. Exploring the process dancers need to undertake in order to best demonstrate their emotional truths through their physical bodies, Mancam is particularly interested in the “cyclical relationship between time and space”, and how these, in turn, affect the artist's creative process.

A production that only became stronger since I first saw it at the Cape Town Fringe Festival earlier this month is luminous three-hander The Architecture of Tears. Visually inspired by Rose-Lynn Fisher’s 100 Tears Photographed Through A Standard Light Microscope and choreographed by Ananda Fuch, this moving piece considers the emotional undercurrents that contribute to us crying (whether from joy or sorrow). Performed with incredible tenderness and dexterity by Grant Van Ster, Shaun Oelf and Thabisa Dinga, this is another brave, boundary-pushing work by their Figure of Eight Dance Collective.

““Wena Mamela’ – this is the phrase my grandmother used to call me whenever I was running away to do house chores,” Mamela Nyamza writes in her artistic note for Wena Mamela. Her grandmother would then repeatedly yell the phrase after her as she instead “took my swimming costume and [went] off to the ballet.” First presented in Berlin as part of a residency programme, this self-aware piece aims to consolidate all Nyamza’s (I Stand Corrected, Hatched) previous autobiographical works in order to make up “a preliminary sequel”. Consisting of various “scenes” considering aspects of her life, career, gender and the nature of what constitutes a performance, it is another compelling production by this intelligent artist with a great sense of humour.

Also focusing more on performance art rather than physical dance is Athina Vahler’s Deadringer. Presented by the First Physical Theatre company and starring Levern Botha, we experience the personal agony undergone by a boxing ring girl – you know, the one announcing each new round in her bikini and high heels – before the match’s start. Evocatively combining the distinct languages of the worlds of boxing and dance, losing myself in the intricacies and athleticism of Botha’s performance has been one of this year’s personal festival highlights for me.

A final few powerful pieces seen over the festival’s final few days are the CAFDA Youth Dance Company’s Fall to Grace, arguing for the letting go of the ego in order to live one’s life with grace; the EOAN Group Theatre Company’s Past Imperfects, choreographed by Ebrahim Medell and featuring the company’s talented trainees; the Cape Academy of Performing Arts’ Disconnect, meditating on the experience of feeling alone despite being in a crowd; as well as the Garage Dance Company’s Ons Gedoentes, performed in part to Die Antwoord’s Doos Dronk.

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